Tunisian Interior Minister sacked, technocratic cabinet at risk

Wed 13 Jan 2021

Tunisian Interior Minister sacked, technocratic cabinet at risk

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has dismissed the country’s Interior Minister Taoufik Charefddine, amid tensions with the presidency. PM Mechichi and President Kais Saied are in conflict over Tunisia’s governance system, with the latter and opposition blocs wanting a technocratic government and Mechichi, together with ruling factions demanding party representation in the cabinet. 

Prime Minister vs. President

At first it was not clear why the former Interior Minister had been fired, but eventually it became known that he attempted to replace senior national security officials. While Charefddine did have President Saied’s approval, Mechichi, while being abroad, had not been notified. When the PM found out, he rectified the Home Affairs Minister’s decision and later proceeded to dismiss him. Charefddine is known to be close to the president and therefore the events are considered to be mutual attacks.

Specialist vs political government

In essence, the root cause of the sacking has to do with the rivalry between the PM and presidency. Saied appointed Mechichi, who at that time intended to form a technocratic government, back in July 2020, in the midst of a political crisis. A month later, parliament approved his specialist cabinet. Even though the ruling parties wanted to be represented in the ministries, many set aside their opinions and agreed anyways in order to restore stability in the country. Now, it seems like the ruling parties do not agree with the cabinet anymore, pressuring Mechichi to reshuffle his ministers. One of the most vocal parties is the Islamist Ennahda. It’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, is known to demand party representation in government. Ennahda has remained one of the biggest factions for years and would therefore benefit from a political cabinet. Ghannouchi says that many of the current ministers are inefficient and should be replaced. 

Power division

Tunisia’s governance system is not the only reason of dispute between the nation’s two most important leaders. Both the president and the PM seem to be in a competition of the power division. Leading back to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Saied claimed, during a visit, that he has full control over the internal security forces, as he said it is part of the armed forces. The latter falls under his mandate, being its supreme leader. Mechichi is said to have seen this as an invasion of his respective authority and power.

Two failing cabinet in one year?

The North African country has endured many political crises since it made the switch from dictatorship to democracy in 2011. Under its current economic and social pressures on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, intensified political turmoil could make the collapse of the cabinet plausible, leading to the fall of two governments in one year. 

Sources: AAArab WeeklyFrance24Middle East MonitorMiddle East MonitorNorth Africa PostReuters

Image: Pixabay